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Inexpensive 'nano-Camera' Can Operate at the Speed of Light


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MIT students and their "nano-camera."

MIT students (left to right) Ayush Bhandari, Refael Whyte, and Achuta Kadambi pose next to their "nano-camera" that can capture translucent objects, such as a glass vase, in 3-D.

Credit: Bryce Vickmark

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Media Lab and the University of Waikato have created a $500 "nano-camera" that operates at the speed of light and could have applications in areas such as medical imaging and vehicle collision avoidance detectors.

The camera is based on "time of flight" technology that calculates the location of objects by how long it takes a light signal to reflect off a surface and return to the sensor. However, unlike existing devices based on time of flight, MIT graduate student Achuta Kadambi says the camera is not disrupted by rain, fog, or translucent objects.

The camera uses an encoding technique often used in the telecommunications industry to determine the distance a signal has traveled, says the Media Lab's Ramesh Raskar. "We use a new method that allows us to encode information in time," Raskar says. "So when the data comes back, we can do calculations that are very common in the telecommunications world, to estimate different distances from the single signal."

The device scans the scene with a continuous-wave signal that oscillates at nanosecond periods, enabling the use of inexpensive, off-the-shelf light-emitting diodes while attaining a time resolution within one order of magnitude of femtophotography.

The researchers presented the camera last week at Siggraph Asia in Hong Kong.

From MIT News
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